Archive for October, 2009
This past week a friend sent me an article about people with disabilities in film and TV acting. It hit on a lot of the perceived limitations and assumptions.
Check it out:
Talk about culture shock. I left developing country Tanzania and landed straight in the heart of development or establishment at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, where I was a sports legend guest of Buoniconti Fund and their efforts to cure paralysis. I joined sports stars Troy Aikman, Clyde Drexler, Dara Torres, Rusty Wallace, Pat Day, Mike Piazza, and Bret Hull at a fundraising dinner that raised almost $50 million over the last twenty-three years.
Still carting around a duffel full of dirty clothes—and I mean dirty clothes—from the mountain, I stopped in New York because the climb is just the start. We need to leverage it. If we are successful in creating a social change—a shift in the way that we see ourselves and others—in creating opportunities when there are seemingly none—then we need a bigger voice. John Mondello, Karen Brown and CBS Evening News have been tremendous in getting our story to a much wider audience. I’d hoped that some other national news outlets might pick up on it as well, but they didn’t on this trip. Hopefully, they will soon because the viability of our efforts sits in the balance. Or ability to tell the story, to attract sponsors, to raise money, and ultimately, to change minds hinges on getting the word out.
In many ways the contrast=2 0between Tanzania and New York, specifically the Waldorf was almost as bizarre as the scene I experienced at the Amsterdam airport along the way. With a couple of hours to spare I headed for the museum to see some 17th century art. A little casual culture never hurt anyone. On my way, I stopped into the rest room, where a man stood half in and half out of the sink—washing his feet. I felt like I’d been transported into a John Irving novel. Then, not sharing any language, we had a conversation regarding the whereabouts of the handicapped bathroom—just around the corner—and that it really kind of stunk.
It was a bit bizarre to look at the black and white photos of Kissinger and Eisenhower on the walls as I made my way to my hotel room. The security seemed so old and so solid—a huge contrast to Tanzania, where the hand to mouth existence and lack of rain during the rainy season, had forced people to dig up grass roots to feed the cows. They can’t worry that when the rains return there won’t be any grass to grow or that whole areas might slide away as mud.
I couldn’t help but feel caught in the middle. The obvious wealth of so many in New York left me longing for some of the security that money brings. We and I have mortgaged so much to make the One Revolution project a reality, and the climb, while a great success, is the beginning as opposed to the end. I’m far from digging up grass roots, but I as I made my way through New York I couldn’t help but feel a sense of limbo between the two worlds. Maybe that’s a good thing.3 comments
This is the start of the third day since we came off the mountain. I’m finally starting to feel semi-normal. The first two days I had trouble getting out of bed, I hadn’t really slept in two weeks, and getting out of the shower–I finally exited when the plastic deck chair used started to lose integrity. On the mountain I just pushed through everyday. The pain didn’t really register until I stopped. With that pain comes the significance of my effort. My nose is peeling. My lip is split and still painful especially to toothpaste. I have a persistent tickle cough from the exploding dust on the mountain. But, the muscle and joint pain is starting to subside. For the first two days I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My wrists felt almost fused. It seemed like someone had hit me across the back of the shoulders with a baseball bat. I pushed at a quarter speed looking like the delicate brand new spinal cord injury that I still remember being. It felt like the residual of a marathon, tons of early season intervals, and being sick to the point that my face was puffy, my mind was foggy, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
My experience might have been extreme for the rest of the team, but they all worked so hard on the mountain, doing their jobs meant that thru climbed many sections of the mountain more than once and often at pressing speed, that I think they’re all feeling it a bit more than their showing, which is a testament to their collective resolve since we didn’t stop after we left the mountain.
Early the first morning we visited Mobility Care to meet the first three recipients of Mobility Revolution’s wheelchair donation. One individual was unable to make it, but the other two confirmed our efforts.
Zachariah received a three-wheeled handcycle constructed by Mobility Care. A couple years ago he had osteomyelitis in his hip which affected bone density in his hip and femer. Instead of being an isolated malady his whole body has been affected. Getting around exclusively for years gives him the look that his neck and wrists have been fused. He has to turn his whole torso to look at you. His hands almost look like those of a quadraplegic even though he didn’t tell us of any nerve damage. We hope that with the handcycle he will use more muscles and give his wrists and neck a bit of a break as he pedals around Arusha selling vouchers for cell phone minutes.
Nine year old Masufu had a heart breaking story. He has kidney failure and there are only two dialysis machines in all of Tanzania (as we’ve been told). He has lost one leg of the kidney failure already and his body looks painfully swollen. To pressure the family even more, his father died ten days before we met him. As he sat in the chair for the first time, I asked him what he wanted to do. He said that he wanted to go to school. Why? Because he wanted to become a doctor–specifically a pediatrician because they work with children.
Later in the day we did a press conference for Tajiri with seven members of the Tazanian press.
- Chris11 comments
It’s been a while since I’ve posted as we spent more time on the upper mountain than we’d anticipated. After a great day on the 28th, I had probably my most challenging day on the 29th. On the scree field below Gillman’s Point, I spent the whole day on the winch. Each turn of the cranks seem to take all of my strength. First I started counting pedal strokes to give myself a goal of anywhere between 20 and 100. Then I started to pick out individual rocks that were about 10-12 feet away. It was all I could to keep going. Climbing the 200+ foot rope took hours, but eventually we reached the boulder field below Gillman’s. It proved impassable. My team and the porters assisted me and I was soon back on my way, rolling down into the crater.
With all the times that I’ve likened the vehicle to a Mars Rover, the crater might well have been the most appropriate place. The landscape looked the surface of Mars, or a desert, or the bottom of a dried lake, with the finest silt on the mountain. We camped at the base of the ridge that led to Uhuru Peak. As the sun set, we could see the peak sign at the end of the ridge.
At 18,000 feet sleep was surprisingly easy. No one on the team suffered anything more than a headache. The tent was covered in frozen condensation in the morning. In our fatigue and with the effects of altitude we’d neglected to open a vent, but the sun warmed us quickly and we started up the run-off trail to the ridge. Seki, our lead African guide, projected four hours to the summit.
The glaciers, which had looked like skullcaps from the bottom, towered stories in the air. With glimpses and light changes I thought I saw the Parthenon at one time, and a Navajo Village another. Looking at the glaciers was like looking for figures in changing clouds.
On the day, I alternated between the boards and riding freely. The boards that the porters laid made traction possible, but they also made the going slower. I tried at every chance to ride myself, though fully aware of the strains of altitude. There was much to look at with the crater to my right and the glacier to my left. As I marveled at the glacier, Seki said that many people hire airplanes to marvel at the ice. It was nice to know that I’d earned the view under my own effort.
As we approached a ridge, where the film crew setup, I asked Seki if we’d be able to see the summit from there. He assured me that we would, though he didn’t prepare me for the surprise that it was so close. The trail dipped down slightly, I shifted out of first gear for the first time in three days, and pedaled easily the few hundred yards to the summit. After such a difficult journey, it seemed strange that the last little bit might well have been the easiest. We’d earned the view over years of preparation. It took two hours from camp to the summit.
I felt like I’d made a statement that we as people could do whatever we wanted, but more profoundly, I saw the benefits of giving someone an opportunity. Last June we met Tajiri, a former porter on Kilimanjaro, who lost his leg in a landslide on the mountain that also took a few lives. Though I wasn’t sure until this trip how Tajiri fit with our project—we’ve been about wheels—we bought him prosthesis. When we summited on the 30th, Tajiri summited for the second time in two days. Seki told us that he will become famous in Tanzania for being the country’s first amputee to reach Uhuru Peak. In addition to climbing the mountain, Tajiri resumed a rhythm with the porters, his friends and former co-workers. He teased them as he walked. “I bet you never expected to see me back here. I’m back.” Tajiri seemed far more confident than I’d seen him before. Seki speculated that he’d been 80% recovered prior to the climb. He said that the climb returned him to 100%. I suspect that it might be more than that. I suspect that Tajiri might get a chance to do far more than he would have in his previous life. I might not have clearly seen the connection between Tajiri and our project prior to our climb, but now I see that he has the ability to change lives. He already has.
Photos © Mike Stoner14 comments